West had been group vice president/Kraft Foods and president/North American beverages, overseeing both coffee and refreshment beverage brands. She replaces Jeri B. Finard, who became the first CMO at Kraft, the nation's leading food producer, in September 2006. Kraft said Finard left for personal reasons.
"Mary Beth brings to the CMO role a consumer-centric approach to business challenges, a passion for breakthrough marketing, and a long track record of success in building Kraft brands," said Irene Rosenfeld, Kraft chairman/CEO, in a statement. "She will be an excellent partner as she works with her team to enhance our marketing capabilities and works with our businesses to develop breakthrough marketing programs. I look forward to the contribution she'll make as CMO in helping to restore Kraft to reliable growth."
In a recently published book, The NEW Woman Rules, written by Fawn Germer, author of Hard-Won Wisdom and Mustang Sallies, West is profiled with 49 other industry executives who made their own rules on the way to the top. What she says there speaks volumes about who she is: "A lot of leadership is about finding connection with people. If you find out enough about them, something will connect you.
"One of the first people I worked with [at Kraft] was Jim Craigie (now CEO of Church & Dwight)," says West. "We were as different as we could be, but we were from towns right next to each other. We both were inspired to get things done fast. We were both so competitive, and we both loved softball. Those were the things we connected on. I worked with him three different times. But, on paper, we were really different. Relationships come down to finding connection on some level. And, the people I have learned the most from are the ones who are least like me."
In her new role, West will report to Rosenfeld and become a member of the Kraft Executive Team, per the company. As CMO, she is responsible for consumer insights & strategy, integrated marketing communications, consumer services, and sustainability. West also will oversee the Tassimo hot beverage business on a global basis. She will be based at Kraft's headquarters in Northfield, Ill.
Most recently, West engineered the switch to 100% Arabica coffee beans in a consumer preferred package on the Maxwell House brand. West guided Kraft's powdered beverages to a nearly 9% annual growth rate with double-digit gains in the "On the Go" single-serve, drink stick category because of continued innovations, such as adding functional benefits like antioxidants. She also helped revitalize the Tassimo brand domestically, the company said.
During her Kraft career, West has held a number of key marketing and business management positions. She served as group vice president/president, U.S. grocery sector; senior vice president/GM, meals division; vice president/marketing & consumer promotions; vice president/business development North America; and category business director, Jell-O gelatin. She began her career as associate product manager on Maxwell House coffee in 1986.
West has been acknowledged as one of Crain's Chicago Business's "40 under 40" as well Minority MBA's Next Generation of Business Leaders. In 2005, she was selected by Black MBA Magazine as one of the "Top 50 under 50" as well as Who's Who in Black Chicago.
In The NEW Woman Rules, Germer writes of West that "growing as a leader meant learning to inspire those who do not. As the most senior African-American woman at Kraft, West says she bears a heavy responsibility. Senior management has put a heavy emphasis on diversity, but West takes it personally." "I've had so much help along the way, and if I don't put my hand back and help somebody else, it is all for naught," she told Germer.
Most recently, she was featured in NAFE Magazine (National Association for Female Executives). She is also a member of the Executive Leadership Council & Foundation, American Beverage Association and the board of directors for J.C. Penney.